I go to a lot of fundraisers in Rochester.
Many of them are political fundraisers to support candidates for election who I hope to have represent us. It's a thing we do around here. But others are particular occasions to raise funds to support community projects, or neighborhoods, or people in need.
Friday night's was "A Taste of Cameron" -- a quite magnificent event held in the Atrium at City Hall to support Cameron Ministries -- an urban outreach community center serving the Lyell-Otis area of Northwest Rochester.
Their group serves a neighborhood where 98% of the residents live in poverty. Yes, you read that right. Some 98% of the residents in this part of Rochester can't pay their bills. Talk about a reality check.
I actually spent one of my high school years living with my mother on Freeland Street in this neighborhood. And, my step-father grew up on Sherman Street. But that was before the demise of Kodak and International Trade agreements tore the guts out of neighborhoods like this one by killing the jobs that used to support middle class working families.
The Taste of Cameron had offerings from a ton of great local restaurants, a slew of wine and beer tastings, a silent auction and even a chorus of singers to entertain us. Kudos go to all the businesses in Rochester who support events like this one. And, congratulations to Debra Bishop who is Chair of the Board for a really great fundraiser.
But there was one table in particular that wasn't giving away free samples of anything ... unless you include the lesson I learned from Ken Williams, who runs the Food Operation at Cameron Ministries.
Cameron has an after school program as well as a free clothing outreach. But First and foremost, they have to feed people. Lunch is served Monday through Saturday. Sundays at 4:30 they have a celebration dinner.
They also run an Food Cupboard, and the table I found myself lingering at was a display of what it takes to feed a family of four for three days. Soups and cereal. Some pasta and Beans. Tuna Fish. A box of Jello.
But I never realized the magnitude of what it takes to feed the 1,300 families a place like Cameron takes care of every day of the year.
1,300 families. That's a lot of canned veggies.
Friday night's lesson inspired me. We give a little to our local food pantries. When we close our cottage for the year, we always drop off the stuff left in the cupboards to the local food campaign. And, there's a lot of times over the year when I take stuff left over from our events to House of Mercy (one of the big hits was the 50 leftover cupcakes I had from Molly's surprise birthday party this year!)
But the people that run Cameron Ministries do it 365 days a year. They do it on a shoestring, and they're an example of the type of people doing great work all over our community for not much money, but with a whole lot of caring.
We're about to enter the Holiday season. They're even calling for a little snow in the air. And what Ken Williams who was staffing the Cameron Food Cupboard table reminded me is that at this time of year, people living in poverty right down the street need our help more than ever.
We've got a Poverty initiative underway in Rochester that is working to eliminate poverty in fifteen years. And, over at places like the United Way they do an incredible job attacking the problem from the big picture point of view.
But I'm suggesting that you can do a whole lot to help your neighbors by doing something right now.
The next time you're at the grocery store, buy a little extra to give away. You won't even notice the cost at the check out, but the return on investment for your heart will be immense in comparison.
It doesn't have to be Cameron Ministries -- though I know they need it. But if you do just a tiny bit of looking, I'm sure there's a food cupboard right in your own neighborhood.
Like I said, it's good for your heart.